Cardinals arrive in a procession as Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican in this April 13, 2014 photo. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
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Three years after the election of Pope Francis, Roman Catholic conservatives are growing increasingly worried that he is quietly unraveling the legacy of his predecessors. Francis' popularity with most Catholics, and legions of non-Catholics, has given him the image of a grandfatherly parish priest who understands how difficult it sometimes is to follow church teachings, particularly those on sexual morality. Interviews with four Vatican officials, including two cardinals and an archbishop, as well as theologians and commentators, highlighted conservative fears that Francis' words and deeds may eventually rupture the 1.2-billion member church.Thompson was among conservatives stung by a freewheeling news conference Francis gave on a flight home from Mexico.The conservative standard-bearer in Rome is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a 67-year-old American who in 2014 told an interviewer that the church under Francis was like "a ship without a rudder".Conservatives are also worried about Francis' drive to devolve decision-making power on several issues from the Vatican to regional, national or diocesan levels, what the pope has called "a healthy decentralization".
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